An attorney who brought a “predominantly frivolous motion” seeking to amend his client’s lawsuit for the fourth time has been sanctioned and ordered to pay his adversary’s legal fees.
Solo practitioner Stephen A. Katz represents Nance Hutter in a lawsuit against mortgage brokers and Countrywide Bank, which was acquired by Bank of America. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages and rescission of a $1.785 million mortgage loan provided to her by Countrywide.
Hutter and her attorney moved to file a fourth amended complaint, which would supplement and alter factual allegations, add new and previously dismissed parties and apparently add a new claim, Southern District Judge Nelson Roman (See Profile) said. Denying the motion to amend in Hutter v. Countrywide Bank, 09-cv-10092, Roman found the changes would be futile or would prejudice the defendants.
Roman found Katz and his client violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that pleadings should be warranted and have evidentiary support.
For instance, Roman said details from Hutter’s new affidavit “confirms that Katz failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry into which type of loan plaintiff believed she had been offered before filing” her lawsuit.
The judge also said he found that Hutter and Katz “acted willfully” and that “their conduct added unnecessary time and expense to the litigation process.”
He said Katz must pay Countrywide for reasonable attorney fees it incurred in opposing Hutter’s motion to amend. He said a hearing would determine the amount of fees, unless the parties can agree on them. He also fined Hutter $100 “for repeatedly altering her factual contentions without an evidentiary basis to do so and for doing so for the sole purpose of delaying the litigation.”
In an interview, Katz said he will appeal. “I got sanctioned just for asking” to amend the complaint, he said. “I just don’t feel the case law will support this decision.”